The Spring Moomin Festival was due to take place this week in one of Moscow’s largest shopping centres. But the event was pulled after the Russian distributor of Moomin material reported that the rights holders would not renew their licence “due to what is happening in the world”.
Moomin Characters, the Finnish company that manages the intellectual property of author Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, confirmed that lawyers had been instructed to act against the Moscow festival.
“Our legal counsel cancelled a commercial event that was being planned and marketed without our permission,” a spokesperson told i.
The company had actually moved to sever ties with Russia last year without making a public statement.
“Last spring, we asked our commercial partners globally not to allow any new Moomin contracts, not to make any renewals of any contracts, and to (end) all partnerships in Russia as soon as contracts made prior to the illegal attack by Russia on Ukraine allow for it,” the spokesperson said.
The Moomins are among the world’s most enduring cartoon characters, created by enigmatic author Jansson. Her first book featuring the friendly, rounded creatures, The Moomins and the Great Flood was published in 1945.
The series, featuring characters including Moomintroll, the Snorkmaiden amd Snufkin, has been translated into dozens of languages and remain popular more than 20 years after Jansson’s death.
In addition to the comic books that made the characters famous, Moomin Characters also distributes a wide range of merchandise from full body suits to gold kitchenware. The company reported revenues of €600m-€700m (£530m-£615m) in 2016, with Japan accounting for around 50 per cent.
Finland has historically had turbulent ties with Russia, with which it shares an 830-mile border – and is applying to join Nato in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Hundreds of Finnish companies have severed ties with Russia.
While the cancellation of the Moscow festival has caused disappointment, according to Russian media, the Moomin theme could be replaced by one featuring Cheburashka, an “iconic” Russian character depicting a big-eared animal.